INSURANCE - CAR INSURANCE

How to Get Car Insurance if You Can't Afford It

Updated April 2, 2024
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If you can’t afford car insurance, consider looking for discounts or comparing policies between insurance companies.

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Car insurance is often expensive, but it’s also legally required in every state except New Hampshire. If you feel as though you can’t afford the best car insurance and don’t know what to do, consider some of these available options. You could see if you qualify for available discounts and potentially reduce your coverage limits.

Whatever you do, don’t drive without insurance. Depending on where you live, driving without insurance could hcave heavy consequences, such as having your license suspended, receiving a hefty fine, or ending up in jail.

We’ll also explore the factors that affect your car insurance rates and see how you can help make your rates more affordable in the future.

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6 ways to get affordable car insurance rates

If you want help saving on your car insurance rates so you can afford insurance, consider using these six tips:

1. Find cheaper insurance providers

Insurance companies don’t let people negotiate car insurance rates, but you can absolutely compare rates from various insurance providers to find some less expensive options. If your renewal date is coming up and you can’t afford your current insurance anymore, see what else is available in your area.

You have three main ways to compare car insurance rates:

  1. Call different insurance companies or independent insurance agents
  2. Check insurance rates directly on company websites
  3. Use a comparison website to check car insurance rates in your area

The easiest method is often to use a comparison website because you won’t necessarily have to fill out an online quote for each company you want pricing for. Plug in some necessary information and the comparison tool will give you personalized information on available rates.

In addition, if you don’t drive a lot, you might consider using a pay-per-mile car insurance policy. These types of programs charge you a base rate plus a mileage rate based on your total miles driven. So if you don’t have a long daily commute and don’t typically drive much or very far otherwise, a pay-per-mile insurance program could be cheaper than a traditional car insurance policy.

2. Use discounts

Many online car insurance quotes automatically apply discounts based on the information you provide. It’s worth it to answer every question as best you can, especially if it’s a question that seems to be connected to a potential discount.

For example, questions about military or government affiliations typically have nothing to do with your car insurance policy other than providing you a potential discount.

Some common types of discounts include:

  • Bundling policies
  • Having a good student on your policy (meaning they get good grades)
  • Adding another vehicle to your policy
  • Maintaining a clean driving history
  • Practicing safe driving habits
  • Having a vehicle with safety equipment or features installed

If you’re not getting any discounts through an online quote process, consider finding an independent insurance broker in your area. They might be able to help you find available discounts through a company that wasn’t initially included in your quote comparison.

3. Take a defensive driving course

Taking a defensive driving course can qualify you for a discount depending on your insurance provider and where you live. This specific discount is typically reserved for residents over 55 who take an eligible course or class that’s been approved by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Public Safety.

Some of these courses are online, and many of them go over different parts of driving education, including traffic laws and defensive driving techniques that can help you avoid accidents and protect yourself and your vehicle.

4. Reduce insurance coverage

The type of coverage you choose, including its limits and any applicable deductibles, is a huge factor in determining your car insurance rates. As an example, going for your state’s minimum coverage, which is typically a small amount of liability insurance, is likely your cheapest option.

Adding collision coverage, comprehensive insurance, rental car reimbursement, and more will increase your rates. Going for the minimum required insurance is the most affordable option, but it won’t provide you with the best financial protection in case of an accident or other insurance-related incident.

Striking a balance between having enough insurance and saving money on your rates is a way to have peace of mind while keeping some cash in your wallet. Get no less than the minimum insurance you need to avoid financial hardship if you get in an accident.

5. Increase your credit score

Many insurance companies check your credit history to help determine your car insurance rates. The information provided on your credit reports is used to create a rating called an insurance score, or credit-based insurance score.

Your insurance score is an estimate of how well you manage your money and isn’t based on how much money you make. It’s basically an extra indicator of whether you might be more likely to file a claim.

Improving your credit score can help improve your insurance score, which might provide you with more affordable car insurance rates. Common ways to help improve your credit score include using credit cards responsibly and making on-time payments.

6. Join someone else’s auto insurance policy

Joining someone else’s car insurance policy or adding someone else to your policy can help decrease your overall cost. This typically only works if the person you’re adding or joining has a clean driving record and falls within an age range that doesn’t include “high-risk drivers.”

For example, an 18-year-old driver joining the policy of a 30-year-old with a clean driving record might get better overall rates than if they were to have their own policy. But keep in mind that rates would likely skyrocket (in comparison) for the “safe driver,” so you might have to work out a fair distribution of the costs.

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What happens if you don’t pay for your car insurance?

You could lose your coverage if you don’t pay your car insurance bills. This doesn’t mean your coverage is immediately canceled if you miss a payment, as many insurance companies provide a grace period of around 10 to 20 days for you to make your payment.

But if you pass the grace period and still don’t make the required payment, your provider will cancel your insurance policy. This is called a lapse in coverage and it doesn’t look good on your record if you want to get a new policy in the future. Insurance companies will want to know why and for how long you had a lapse in coverage, and it could possibly affect whether you qualify for a new policy.

Additionally, any unpaid premiums could eventually be sent to collections, which means the insurer tasked a collections agency to collect your unpaid debt. If your debt is sent to collections, it can show up on your credit report and negatively impact your credit score significantly.

What could happen if you drive without a current insurance policy?

It depends on the circumstances, including where you live, but these are some possible consequences of driving without a current insurance policy:

  • Paying a fine
  • Having your license and/or registration suspended
  • Getting your car impounded
  • Spending time in jail
  • Paying fees to reinstate your license and/or registration
  • Having to submit an SR-22 form

In some states, your first offense for driving without car insurance could immediately result in a suspended license or registration. And that’s on top of having to pay fines or fees.

The exact amount you might have to pay in fines varies, but it could get up to $5,000. And your license could be suspended for months or even years. Even worse, some states could put you in jail for up to a year or more.

What factors affect your car insurance rates?

Car insurance rates vary, but the main factors that affect how much you pay in premiums include your driving record, your age, and the coverage you choose. Remember that your credit score can affect your car insurance rates if your state’s laws allow it.

Your driving record

Car insurance companies typically consider any recent car accidents, specifically from the past three to five years, when deciding your car insurance rates. They also consider any traffic or moving violations.

Driving history is a big factor in determining how much you pay for car insurance, so having a clean driving record is key to decreasing your rates. If you don’t have a clean driving record now, you could take a defensive driving course to help you steer clear of further incidents and decrease your car insurance rates in the future.

Your age

You can’t control your age, but it’s still an important factor that affects the cost of car insurance premiums. In general, it costs more to insure young drivers — especially young men and teen drivers.

Your types of coverage, coverage limits, and deductibles

Most states require a minimum amount of liability coverage, but your premium will be higher if you add other types of insurance, including collision and comprehensive coverage. More add-ons typically means more protection in different circumstances, but it will often increase your rates as well.

It’s important to find a balance between having sufficient coverage for your needs and saving money on your premiums. Decreasing your coverage limits and increasing your deductibles are a quick way to lower your rates.

The type of vehicle you drive

How much your vehicle costs can affect how much a car insurance policy will cost. More expensive vehicles and new cars typically cost more to cover. But you might get cheap car insurance rates if your car is less expensive.

Also note that you might qualify for certain car insurance discounts if your vehicle has specific safety features or equipment installed.

Your credit

Insurance companies can often use information in your credit report to predict whether you’re more likely to file a claim. If you have a good or excellent credit score, you might qualify for better rates than someone with a poor credit score or a small amount of credit history.

Some U.S. states ban insurance companies from considering credit scores/history when determining your car insurance rates, but most states allow it.

Where you live

Insurance companies adjust their rates depending on where you live. Living in a city compared to a more rural area typically comes with a higher risk of vehicle damage, whether it’s from car accidents, vandalism, or theft. For example, you can generally expect rates to be higher in New York compared with a small town in Nebraska.

Your gender

Women tend to have lower car insurance rates than men, especially in the case of young drivers. This is due to statistical analysis illustrating that women tend to have fewer car accidents than men. But insurance rates between men and women tend to even out as people age.

How much you drive

More driving means more chances of a car accident. So putting a lot of miles on your car for daily commutes could mean higher rates than only using your car to go to the store and run other similar errands.

FAQs

How do I get out of my car insurance policy?

Call your insurance company. This is typically the quickest way to cancel your car insurance policy because an agent can walk you through the cancellation steps. Many insurers don’t provide ways to cancel your policy online, so calling in may be your best and only option.

How do you beat high car insurance?

Consider these options to help decrease your premiums and beat high car insurance:

  1. Compare rates between multiple companies
  2. Look for available discounts
  3. Reduce your coverage limits
  4. Improve your credit score
  5. Maintain a clean driving record
  6. Get a higher deductible
  7. Take a safe driving course
  8. Join someone else’s policy
  9. Choose a low-risk vehicle

Why is car insurance so expensive?

Your car insurance might be expensive because you’re seen as a high-risk driver. This could be because of your age, driving record, and the type of car you drive. You can’t control your age, but you can control how you drive. A clean driving record, including no recent accidents or traffic violations, can significantly reduce your auto insurance rates.

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Bottom line

Auto insurance coverage can be expensive, but there are available options if you can’t afford car insurance. This includes finding helpful discounts, potentially reducing your insurance coverage, and comparing rates between different companies.

Having a minimum amount of insurance is a legal requirement for most people if you plan to drive a vehicle. The possible consequences of driving without insurance are severe and include having your license suspended or going to jail, so it’s really not worth considering.

To compare coverage options in your area, check out our page on the best car insurance.

  • You could save up to $600 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI® Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.